Friday, February 25, 2011

The royal meet-jack!!!

Hijacks and carjacks. What do you call a meeting where the agenda gets royally pulled offtrack? A meet-jack???? Hardly have I found a phenomenon more annoying than one where the agenda of a meeting you've called gets hijacked!

So, here is some background....

A certain task on hand needs a small group of not more than 5 people with variegated pasts to get together and dish out ideas on a common underlying topic. No, I am not talking about an AA meeting or a psychological roller coaster ride, but rather just an issue where the people in question have an opinion that counts more than mine (which is akin to a cow's opinion, mind you), owing largely to their rather intense experience in the thick of things. As someone I know would say, collectively, we'd have close to 100 years of work experience in that room and with the express intention of tapping into that immense treasure trove of gyaan, I guess I decided to get em all together for a 'brainstorming' session.

And what ensued just made me want to storm out of that place, with my brains screaming out in agony! One key takeaway though was that I managed to recognize and make a note of those signs that signal the royal meet-jack. At the end of the exercise though, I was surprised at the close alignment of what happened with key elements of an HBR article on conversations I'd recently read!

What happened : What happens when you get people steeped in loads of gyaan together? Each wants to peddle his gyaan as the next best thing since sliced bread! While assiduously pointing out that every other person's slice has layers and layers of mold on it. This vociferous defence and offence routine looks straight out of a quintessential war movie thanks to our apparent bellicose demeanor. Ok, so combative perhaps accounts for the offence, how exactly does it impact the defence, you ask? Well,defence because once the offence starts, the others begin to build strategies of defence. This played out in front of my eyes,with people speaking continuously, with one gentleman speaking and staring straight ahead as though he had blinkers on his eyes and maybe he believed that not making eye contact with others would also mean that he could blank out people in the room! So the combat, and the thwart story was part 1.

The result: The issue on hand was rather complex, with us having to discuss some key aspects of future strategy. But owing to the clash of the egos that was in progress the issue ended up looking like a second grade school debate contest! Every statement was made trying to second guess the other person's ulterior motive, half believeing that everyone out there was out to rule the world and decapitate anyone who dissented! No one wanted to stop and think that at the end of the day the discussion was happening in an attempt to achive a bigger goal. Somewhere the goal was lost in translation And in the ensuing mayhem, I was stuck with my notepad, bullet points under the heading 'agenda' and not a single strikethrough, blankly looking at the crossfire of words and thoughts, clearly realizing that this is anything but a discussion or a brainstorming session.

Salvage? : A feeble attempt at trying to get everyone back on track resulted in more noise, given that no one typically pays any attention to the words of someone a fraction of their age! Once the wars subsided, and everyone perhaps began to realize that warring words expended a lot of energy (the fact that lunch time was drawing near helped the calming of energies), everyone seemed to calm down, and suddenly before one could realize it, everyone had almost shut off! All that we managed to achieve was an abrupt reaffirming of what we already knew and we ended up convincing ourselves that a lot of key insights had indeed been gathered. Although for me, I realized that in front of my very eyes, I had just lost 3 valuable hours of my life!

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